The 58-year-old actor is not the first to return or decline an award from the British royal family
The actor Alan Cumming is no longer an Officer of the Order of the British Empire as the Scottish actor celebrated his 58th birthday by sharing a message on Instagram with his followers, announcing that he had returned the honour. “Something I recently did for myself. I have returned my OBE (Order of the British Empire),” he wrote, referring to the British award given to him in 2009 by the late Queen Elizabeth II as part of her birthday honors list. Cumming was honored for his work as an actor as well as his campaign for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community.
“The Queen’s death and the ensuing debates about the role of the monarchy and especially how the British Empire benefited at the expense (and death) of indigenous peoples around the world was a real eye-opener for me,” he wrote. “Also, thankfully, times and laws in the U.S. have changed, and the great good that the prize brought to the cause of LGBTQ+ people in 2009 is now less powerful than the misgivings I have associated with the toxicity of empire.”
He continued: “So I returned my award, explained the reasons and reiterated my great gratitude for being given it in the first place. Now I’m back to plain old Alan Cumming again. Happy birthday to me!”.
Cummings is not the first to return or decline an award from the British royal family. David Bowie turned down two awards: a Commander of the British Empire in 2000 and a knighthood in 2003, director Danny Boyle refused a knighthood in 2013 and writer Clive Staples Lewis refused a CBE he was due to receive in 1952.
All four Beatles were made Members of the British Empire (MBE) in 1965, but John Lennon returned the honor four years later, and Welsh actor Michael Sheen in 2017 returned the OBE he received in 2009.
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